Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rep. Finn wraps up housing tour in Centralia

Rep. Fred Finn recently went on a tour of Housing Trust Fund facilities in and around the 35th Legislative District. These facilities, which included emergency shelters, low-income housing and farmworker housing, were all constructed with help from the Housing Trust Fund, which is part of the Capital Budget. The Trust Fund provides loans and grants for the acquisition, construction and rehabilitation of housing for low-income or at-risk populations. The facilities are often operated and managed by non-profit organizations.

On Tuesday, Rep. Finn visited two farmworker housing facilities in the city of Centralia. Although Centralia falls outside of his district, he met with affordable housing advocates at Villa los Milagros and Villa San Juan Bautista because he is also vice chair of the House Community Development & Housing committee. As part of his interim work on the committee, he is visiting various housing projects and listening to the needs and concerns of both those who run them and those who reside in them.

The availability of safe, affordable housing for farmworkers is vitally important for Washington's economy. Our state's multi-billion-dollar agricultural industry depends on the availability of labor to cultivate, harvest and process our crops and other products. Without an adequate supply of housing, farmworkers often end up living in crowded, unsafe conditons that pose health and safety risks to themselves and to the communities they live in.

But when workers have a safe place to live, everyone is better off. Besides the security and stability of the housing, activities like ESL courses and homeownership classes are often offered on site, helping residents better integrate into their communities and assisting them on the path to financial independence. Gina Morales, the property manager at Villa San Juan Bautista, said that when residents leave her facility, it's usually because they have been able to purchase their own home.

The current Capital Budget allocated $3 million over the next two years for farmworker housing within the Housing Trust Fund. In previous biennia, the Legislature has been able to set aside nearly three times as much. The Villa los Milagros project received a loan of about $1.5 million from the Trust Fund several years ago; Villa San Juan Bautista received about $1.8 million. It's easy to see that with just $3 million in the Trust Fund, it will be difficult to meet the continuing demand for affordable farmworker housing projects in our state over the next couple of years.

Photo: Rep. Finn talks with Rob van Tassell, VP of Housing and Community Development for Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington. CHS built and operates both Villa los Milagros and Villa San Juan Bautista.

To read this blog post in Spanish go here.